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Adam Schlesinger, songwriter for rock, film and the stage, dies at 52
Adam Schlesinger performs with the string quartet Ethel, at Damrosch Park in New York, July 28, 2010. Schlesinger, a singer-songwriter for the bands Fountains of Wayne and Ivy who had an award-winning second career writing songs for film, theater and television, died on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. He was 52. The cause was complications of the coronavirus, said Josh Grier, his lawyer. Brian Harkin/The New York Times.

by Ben Sisario



NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Adam Schlesinger, a singer-songwriter for the bands Fountains of Wayne and Ivy who had an award-winning second career writing songs for film, theater and television, died Wednesday. He was 52.

The cause was complications of the coronavirus, said Josh Grier, his lawyer.

In Fountains of Wayne, which was started in 1995, Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood perfected a novelistic form of hummable pop-rock in a style derived equally from the Kinks and 1970s groups like Big Star and the Cars. They chose northern New Jersey and the outer boroughs of New York City as their territory, chronicling the lives of suburban mall shoppers, Generation X slackers and down-market cover bands in songs like “Hackensack” and “Red Dragon Tattoo.”

The band was named after a lawn ornament store in Wayne, New Jersey, near Schlesinger’s hometown, Montclair.

Adored by critics, Fountains of Wayne — in which Schlesinger played bass and Collingwood played guitar and sang lead vocals — became a cult favorite but had modest record sales. Its biggest brush with fame came in 2003 with “Stacy’s Mom,” a winking novelty track about a teenage boy infatuated with a friend’s mother. With a racy video featuring supermodel Rachel Hunter, the song went to No. 21 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

Almost from the start of his career, Schlesinger found success in other mediums. He wrote the Beatles-esque theme song to “That Thing You Do!,” a 1996 film directed by Tom Hanks about an also-ran 1960s rock band; like the best Fountains of Wayne songs, “That Thing You Do!” had an instantly catchy melody, a twisting chord progression and plenty of wordplay.

The movie brought Schlesinger nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. He also won three Emmy Awards for his songs on the 2010s TV show “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” which threaded campy, Broadway-style songs through its plot.

In the theater, Schlesinger worked with David Javerbaum to write songs for the 2008 Broadway musical “Cry-Baby,” based on John Waters’ 1990 film of the same title. Schlesinger and Javerbaum were nominated for a Tony that year for best original score, and they worked together again in 2015 on the play “An Act of God.”

As a member of Fountains of Wayne, Schlesinger received two Grammy nominations, but his sole trophy was won with Javerbaum for their work on Stephen Colbert’s “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!,” which took best comedy album in 2010.

More recently, Schlesinger had been collaborating with Sarah Silverman on a stage adaptation of her memoir, “The Bedwetter,” which was scheduled to begin performances off-Broadway this month at the Atlantic Theater Company, but was delayed by the pandemic; he wrote the music, and co-wrote the lyrics with Silverman. And he had begun working with Rachel Bloom to write songs for a musical adaptation of the TV show “The Nanny,” which is in development and aimed at Broadway.

© 2020 The New York Times Company










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